French Anzac services wrap up

Anzac Day commemorations in France have wrapped up with a rainy service at the Australian “Digger” Memorial on the outskirts of Bullecourt.


While the wet weather held off for the dawn service at Villers-Bretonneux on Monday, the sky opened up at the final event of the day and the hundreds of spectators were forced to pull out the umbrellas.

After a procession down the main street, Waltzing Matilda echoing through the small village, a mixed crowd of French locals and Australian visitors stood together beneath the bronze statue for the final service of the day.

Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Leo Davies delivered the commemorative address, describing the 1917 battles at Bullecourt that left 10,000 Australian soldiers dead or wounded.

“This afternoon, as we stand together almost a century later, we do not think of strategic gains, rather we remember the men who waited in the freezing snow for the signal to attack and who risked their lives to save wounded comrades,” he said.

“Today we pay tribute not to battles lost or won, but to our diggers, who endured so much on the Western Front.

“The digger behind me remains to forever watch over the fields of Bullecourt, and our lads, who remain in the care of the people of France.”

Many of those at the service had also attended the earlier Villers-Bretonneux commemoration, which attracted a total of 3100 visitors.

The crowd was significantly smaller than the 6500-strong group that turned out for the same service last year, but the Department of Veterans’ Affairs said it was confident the numbers would increase again next year and for the centenary event in 2018.